grants

Knoxville ballpark, Tebow charity among entities getting grants in Lee budget

Gov. Bill Lee speaks to reporters following his address to a joint convention of the General Assembly on Jan. 19, 2021. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

While big-ticket items like a sales tax holiday on food may be getting much fo the attention in Gov. Bill Lee’s budget amendment, Capitol-watchers have also been pouring over the fine print to see what other interesting items are getting funding.

The AP’s Jonathan Mattise spotted a $13.5 million grant for the minor league ballpark development former gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd is proposing for downtown Knoxville. Another $2 million would pay for renovations at the Hermitage, the Nashville home of President Andrew Jackson, and $1.2 million for the Tim Tebow Foundation’s Her Song project serving human trafficking victims.

Here’s a look at some of other grants included in the budget amendment:

Grants and Community InitiativesAmount
The Sports Authority of the County of Knox and the City of Knoxville, Tennessee$13,500,000
City of Memphis – Youth Sports Complex$10,000,000
City of Johnson City – Walnut Corridor Development$5,000,000
University of Memphis – Carnegie Designation$5,000,000
End Slavery TN – Serving Human Trafficking Victims – Year 1 of 3$3,500,000
Fayette County – Courthouse Renovation$3,000,000
Human Coalition – Serving Pregnant Women and Children in Need$3,000,000
Music City Executive Airport$2,000,000
Hermitage Foundation$2,000,000
City of Memphis – Renovation of Levitt Shell$1,300,000
Her Song – Tim Tebow Foundation – Serving Human Trafficking Victims – Year 1 of 3$1,200,000
Associated Builders and Contractors Greater TN Chapter – Knox County CTE Center$1,000,000
Renewal House, Inc. – Serving Women and Children in Need$1,000,000
Teach for America – Teacher Support in High-Need Areas$1,000,000
Gospel Music Association – GMA Center$1,000,000
Hope Smiles – Oral Health Safety Net$800,000
Niswonger Foundation – College and Career Awareness Activities$700,000
Carroll Academy – Rural Juvenile Alternative Education$600,000
TN Anti-Slavery Alliance – Services for Human Trafficking Victims$600,000
Agape Child and Family Services, Inc. – Serving Families in Need$500,000
Corner to Corner – Entrepreneurship Support for Communities in Need$500,000
Delta Dental of TN / Smile 180 Foundation – Oral Health Safety Net$500,000
tnAchieves – Supports Transition to College$500,000
YMCA of Memphis and the Mid-South – Education / Health Support for Young Children$500,000
YMCA of Middle TN – Mentorship / Education for Kids in Need$500,000
Men of Valor – Re-Entry Support Services$499,500
TN Builders Education Foundation – CTE Construction Expansion$478,000
Science Alliance – STEM Educational Museums$450,000
TN Association of Business Foundation – Public-Private Advanced Manufacturing Partnership$400,000
The Next Door, Inc. – Recovery and Support for Re-Entry$400,000
The Jason Foundation, Inc. – Mental Health Student Support$305,000
Blount County – Senior Center$300,000
Town of Jonesborough – Agriculture Education$300,000

Here’s how much Tennessee colleges stand to receive in emergency coronavirus grants

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Maryville) speaks at a Tennessee Titans event in Nashville on Dec. 13, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Tennessee colleges and professional schools are in line to receive to $237 million in emergency grants to help students affected by the coronavirus pandemic, according to U.S. Sen. LAmar Alexander’s office. The grants range from $9.6 million for the University of Tennessee in Knoxville to $5,092 for Omega Graduate School in Dayton.

(See the full list after the jump)

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29 Tennessee health centers to receive $25M from feds

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is  announcing $25 million in grants for 29 health centers in Tennessee responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

Here are the awardees:

Health Center Grantee City Funding Amount
Ocoee Regional Health Corporation Benton $753,725
Hardeman County Community Health Center Bolivar $698,825
Chattanooga Hamilton County Hospital Authority Chattanooga $891,050
Hamilton, County Of Chattanooga $640,790
Maury Regional Hospital Columbia $781,820
Health, Tennessee Dept Of Cookeville $1,173,470
Mercy Health Services, Inc. Franklin $717,935
Mountain Peoples Health Councils Inc Huntsville $723,140
Dayspring Health, Inc. Jellico $675,140
East Tennessee State University Johnson City $705,320
Cherokee Health Systems Knoxville $1,965,725
Community Health Of East Tennessee, Inc. Lafollette $617,810
Perry County Medical Center Inc Linden $630,875
Christ Community Health Services Inc Memphis $2,073,815
Memphis Health Center, Inc. Memphis $1,038,170
Tri-State Community Health Center Memphis $559,070
Rutherford County Primary Care Clinic, Inc. Murfreesboro $758,090
Health, Tennessee Dept Of Nashville $551,105
Health, Tennessee Dept Of Nashville $582,800
Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Center, Inc. Nashville $1,089,650
United Neighborhood Health Services, Inc. Nashville $1,458,125
University Community Health Services, Inc. Nashville $761,150
Rural Medical Services, Inc. Newport $707,855
Rural Health Services Consortium, Inc. Rogersville $1,283,765
Hardin County Regional Health Center Savannah $744,140
Lake County Primary Care Tiptonville $570,785
Chota Community Health Services Vonore $700,430
Morgan County Health Council Wartburg $639,575
Hope Family Health Services Westmoreland $604,820

Lee administration records show dozens of grant ‘commitments’

Gov. Bill Lee, second from left, holds a budget hearing with the Department of Economic and Community Development on Nov. 4, 2019. (Erik Schelzig/Tennessee Journal)

Gov. Bill Lee has sought to chalk up disagreements about a local grant fund to a “misunderstanding” among lawmakers about the application process the money would be distributed. But emails The Tennessean obtained under state open records laws the show the Lee administration had committed to 60 projects around the state before the grant application process was formally established.

Critics have derided the $4 million grant pool as a “slush fund” and raised questions about whether the money was designed to reward lawmakers who voted for Lee’s controversial school voucher bill. Not so, said Lee, but the governor nevertheless halted distribution of the money until the next budget year.

The finger-pointing spree erupted when Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough), a top ally of former House Speaker Glen Casada, announced in September that a favored nonprofit in his district would be receiving an extra $75,000 grant. Nobody in the executive branch claimed to know anything about it.

But the Tennessean records request shows Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bobby Rolfe sent a July 26 email to Finance Commissioner Stuart McWhorter saying dozens of commitments had already been identified.

“This morning I met with our ECD Grant Team to develop a plan to administer the $4 million Rural and Community Development Grant Program that was approved by the General Assembly,” Rolfe said in the email.

“Assuming the individual grants will not be large amounts, it is quite conceivable that the total number of grants could exceed 100,” VanderMeer wrote.

Rolfe told the paper on Monday he had no knowledge of specific projects.

“We at ECD saw our role only as the grantor of the program,” he said. “Which means as this legislation was written, (the) commissioner of F&A would be making the decision and would be approving the grants, commitments, whatever you want to call them.”

“We at ECD — nobody’s ever seen a list,” he said. “We to this day don’t know that a list exists. We’ve just been told that there was a list somewhere.”

McWhorter declined to comment to the paper through a spokeswoman. But he denied having a role in devising the additional grant pool funds with state lawmakers at the end of last session.

“I’m not part of the legislative negations,” McWorter told reporters on Nov. 4. “That was their amendment, they added the money. You’ll have to ask them how it was added.

“We submitted a $3 million request as part of the admirative amendment. They added $1M additional and they unanimously approved the budget. So you’ll have to ask them how it occurred,” he said.

Lee said he hasn’t spoken to Hill about why he thought the $75,000 was funded for the project in his district. The governor said during budget hearings earlier this month that he doesn’t know why there’s so much confusion surrounding the grant program.

“You’ll have to ask those who don’t understand it and have said they don’t understand it,” Lee said. “We understood exactly what the process was. But there have been a number of lawmakers who have expressed uncertainty about how the funds would be distributed, what that process would be.

“Because of that lack of clarity and their lack of understanding about the process, we said let’s just hold up, we won’t spend it until we make sure everyone knows how it will be done,” Lee said.

Lee announces $25M in vocational education grants

Gov. Bill Lee’s administration is announcing $25 million in grants under his vocational education initiative, a major part of the Republican’s campaign platform last year

Here’s the release:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced projects receiving funding through the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education (GIVE) program which prioritizes learning opportunities in rural counties and enhances career and technical education statewide.

“We are proud to work with the General Assembly to pass the GIVE initiative and expand career and technical education for Tennessee students,” said Lee. “These funds directly support our workforce development efforts in distressed and at-risk counties and are a key component of our strategy to prioritize rural Tennessee.”

Earlier this year, the General Assembly approved $25 million in the governor’s budget to incentivize collaboration at the local level among stakeholders such as higher education institutions, K-12 and economic development partners.

The award process began in June when the Tennessee Higher Education Commission issued a competitive Request for Proposals (RFP). Each proposal was required to show local data that clearly identified both workforce needs and a sustainable plan utilizing equipment, work-based learning experiences, or recognized industry certifications to increase the state’s competitiveness and postsecondary attainment goals.

The program prioritized economically distressed and at-risk counties in the RFP process. The 28 funded projects will serve all economically distressed counties and 18 of the 24 at-risk counties.

The Appalachian Regional Commission index of economic status categorizes counties as at-risk or distressed based upon their three-year average unemployment rate, per capita market income, and poverty rates. Distressed counties rank among the 10% most economically distressed in the nation while at-risk counties rank between the bottom 10% and 25% of the nation’s counties.

The full list of GIVE projects and recipients:

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Casada ‘doubles down’ on grant pool criticized as pork

Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin) speaks to fellow Republicans about his bid for House speaker on Nov. 20, 2018.. He was later nominated for the position by 47 of 73 members. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

State Rep. Glen Casada says it is a “slap in the face” of Tennesseans to criticize a grant pool that some fellow lawmakers have called pork barrel spending.

As first reported by The Tennessean, the dispute began over a recent announcement by Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) that Isaiah 117 House, a ministry that helps foster children, would receive an extra $75,000 from the state to open another location. That came as news to other area lawmakers, who said no such money had been earmarked.

Hill said the money came out of a $4 million pool approved by lawmakers at the end of this year’s legislative session. But asked about the grants at an event in Sneedville, Gov. Bill Lee said the money won’t be spent until the next budget year.

Senate Speaker Randy McNally’s office issued a statement saying the Oak Ridge Republican opposes the use of state money for “legislative pork projects.” Sexton, a Crossville Republican who took over as speaker in August, called the lack of information about grant pool “troubling.”

Casada sent out a statement Tuesday, calling for the administration to lift the hold on the grant funding. Here’s his full statement:

Former House Speaker Glen Casada (R–Franklin) today called for the immediate release of $4 million in grant funding that was included in the 2019-2020 budget approved earlier this year by the Tennessee legislature. The funds, which were backed unanimously by both the House and Senate, were recently put on hold after questions were raised by a small number of lawmakers about how the grant dollars made their way into the budget.

However, despite these questions recently posed in the press, Casada defended the funds, noting the countless discussions between House leadership, Finance Committee members, and the entire legislative body as the budget made its way through the committee process before receiving final approval by every member of the House and Senate and being signed into law by Governor Lee.

Specifically, the grant funds approved by the legislature were documented in the budget for the sole purpose of making rural and community grants for capital projects, repairs, maintenance, and operations to local governments and non-profit public safety, library, community, and recreational service organizations.

“I am not distancing myself from this grant funding in any way,” said Casada. “I believe passionately what we did was good and will benefit countless districts across the state who have fallen behind with local repairs and upgrades over the years. The process for communities to obtain this funding is completely open and transparent and the funds are designed to enhance our local communities and to be used for the benefit of all citizens.”

Regarding claims that some legislators were unaware of these grant dollars being included in this year’s budget, Casada doubled down on his stance that this funding will help Tennesseans across the state.

“This grant fund was documented and addressed with all of the other budget items discussed this year in committees and in meetings. Leadership supported it. House and Senate members alike supported it. Implying something was done improperly in the creation of this grant fund is a direct slap in the face of the very Tennesseans who need it most and each community this funding is intended to help.”